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GamesBeat: What role can Thwacke’s consulting play in game development? Do you work specifically with writers and designers? Is it better if you’re involved in the process early on?
Alvarado: Although we can provide input at almost any stage of development, we mostly work early on the conception of a project with writers and with designers. We work with writers to craft plausible narrative — world building — and with designers to align a scientific concept with a design mechanic.
We do this with an extensive network of academics covering every discipline. For example, in Wasteland 2 we were asked which animals that would survive a nuclear fallout and why. In this case we found specialists in environmental biology, medicine, and evolutionary biology to craft science into ideas that can be used in game design. This saves researching time for writers and allows them to focus on gameplay. This out-of-the-box approach has been able to spark new directions for narrative and gameplay that wouldn’t have otherwise been explored.
In later stages of development, we usually work on easy-to-implement text-based assets. In Wasteland 2, we will be doing this for a side mission that involves pages in a wastelander’s logbook. This information is optional but adds depth to narrative and immersion for those willing to read it.
GamesBeat: How does Thwacke’s consulting process work?
Alvarado: We offer ideas that add depth to narrative and design. For narrative, it can be anything from speculating the science behind a flight to Mars to the epidemiology behind a zombie apocalypse — we back this up with established facts and scientific literature. For design, we bring in specialists in psychology and neuroscience to present research that may be applicable to the vision and focus of a project.
For example, since moral choices are particularly important for Wasteland 2, we have been introducing the writers to studies that explore how morality is programmed and manipulated in humans. It is ultimately up to the writers and designers to incorporate these ideas into their game.